Restaurants: Overcome Problems In The Kitchen

We recently had a poor dinner experience at Emeril’s in Miami Beach. After waiting nearly 80 minutes for our entrees, we finally flagged down our waitress who said that the kitchen was “having problems.” The manager came to our table about 15 minutes later and apologized. We cancelled one of the entrees (I was no longer hungry) and the manager went and expedited the order — which finally arrived, but did not come as we had ordered it.

This blog post is not meant to harp on my specific experience at Emeril’s, but to extract lessons that restaurants can learn from this event.

Yes, all restaurants have bad days in the kitchen. But that doesn’t mean that it needs to be a poor experience for the customers. Restaurants need to find ways to overcome these types of issues. Here’s what the front of the house can learn from my C.A.R.E.S. model for service recovery when the kitchen is having problems:

  • Communication: Make sure to regularly check-in with customers at their table. Keep them up to date on the order; even if it means that it will take a long time. Don’t wait until the customer complains to share with them that there is a problem.
  • Accountability: Don’t blame “them” in the kitchen and act like you are not responsible. You are the brand to the customer. Make sure to apologize on behalf of the restaurant and do what you can to improve the situation.
  • Responsiveness: Keep checking on the meal regularly — even before the customer real gets upset. Offer an immediate gift of some type (free drink, free appetizer, etc.) to show that you are doing what you can. And when the customer complains, get the manager over right away.
  • Empathy: Recognize that customers at a resort restaurant are often out for a nice evening; not necessarily for a quick meal. FInd ways to make the evening enjoyable even if the kitchen isn’t delivering on expectations.
  • Solution: Fix the problem by working with the kitchen to get the food right as quickly as possible. If it’s not right, take the costs off of the bill — and let your customers know that you are doing it. Also offer some type of discount/voucher for a future meal; let the cusotmer know that you want to earn back their loyalty.

The bottom line: The front of the house can overcome kitchen issue if it C.A.R.E.S.

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

4 Responses to Restaurants: Overcome Problems In The Kitchen

  1. Dennis Gershowitz says:

    Dear Bruce,

    All I can add is Amen. To me it is all about that caring mentality throughout the organization, the training and training and training effort employed and the commitment from day and one and forever. Sometimes difficult to find.

    My family and I were at Emiril’s at Universal in the the Royal Pacifica Hotel. They had been open for maybe 6 months. Seems like this kitchen delay is a theme. But, the food finally came and was quite good.

    However, at desert, hot tea was spilled on me. The manager and staff could not have reacted better. Immediately from the kitchen comes a salve used by the chef and his staff for burns. They also gave me the package to take back to the hotel. They also comped desert and part of the meal. They also apologized at least 4 times. This team knew what to do. Maybe the kitchen issue is an overall process problem in their design?

    Happy New Year to you and those dear to you Bruce.

    Keep up the great work.

    Best regards,
    Dennis

  2. veronica sanchez almagro says:

    i absolutly agree: good customer experience is something i want in a restaurant, a shop, my supermarket or my online shopping.

  3. Thanks Bruce. I don’t know why businesses make things so hard on themselves. Setting expectations is so important. Like you said…don’t wait until they complain. thanks for the great articles.

    Brett

  4. I think the saddest part might be how these experiences in the kitchen (“back office”) impact the waiter (“front line”) in every day business. Service delivery can be tough on the front line, especially when one’s livelihood depends on it as is the case for many customer service/support organizations, and experieces such as the one you describe here should be good lessons for all of us in how we work with our customers. If interested, some thoughts on how organizations might be able to address such situations are in one of our whitepapers titled, “When the Waiter Brings Bad Food” at
    http://waypointgroup.org/news/index.html

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